ATHENS, Ga. — Closing out the regular season with its final three games at home starting Saturday against Auburn would seem to be to Georgia’s advantage, right?
Except the Bulldogs are 4-2 away from Athens and 1-2 between the hedges this season.
“We haven’t really won a game at Sanford Stadium yet kind of,” Georgia junior nose guard John Atkins said. “Well, we won one, but it’s kind of not like the ones we want to win. We’ve got to come back harder.”
Georgia held off FCS Nicholls State 26-24 on Sept. 10, lost on a Hail Mary to Tennessee 34-31 on Oct. 1 and fell to Vanderbilt 17-16 on Oct. 15 when it couldn’t convert a fourth-and-one on an Isaiah McKenzie run.
“You have your ups and downs everywhere you go,” outside linebacker D’Andre Walker said.
Now there is this: Georgia is a 10-point underdog to the No. 8 Tigers, according to VegasInsiders.com.
That’s the largest points a visiting team has been favored by in Sanford Stadium since 1996 against Tennessee, according to data kept by goldsheet.com. The Vols were favored by 14 and won 29-17 when Peyton Manning passed for 371 yards and two touchdowns.
Georgia, which also has home games left against Louisiana-Lafayette and Georgia Tech, has not lost three games at home in the same season since 1996.
“I don’t think it’s anything about home or away,” coach Kirby Smart said when asked about Georgia’s results in Athens and elsewhere. “I think it’s the demeanor in which you approach those games. I think it’s important that we try to keep a routine for a game. And whether it’s home or away, we try to keep the same routine in making sure the players have the same amount of free time or rest time or focus time, trying to keep that consistent from a home game to a road game. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes on the road game, you get away from things more. You get isolated more.”
The Bulldogs went 24-3 at home from 2012-2015. The one loss last year was the 38-10 blowout by Alabama and Georgia won 9-6 against Missouri and 23-17 to Georgia Southern in overtime.
Georgia has been an underdog at home just four other times since 1996:
Three and a half points to Tennessee (2016). Georgia lost 34-31;
Two points to South Carolina (2011). Georgia lost 45-42;
Two points to Tennessee (2006). Georgia lost 51-33.
Two points to South Carolina (2001). Georgia lost 14-9.
“For me and the team, I feel like we get a good vibe from our fans and we love playing at home,” Walker said.
Said Atkins: “You want to play better every game. We just so happen not to come out on top at home these past two games but I feel like we’ve going to bounce back.”